Definitions of Reductionism
- (noun) The principle that the whole can be best understood by examining its parts.
- (noun) Reducing the complex into fundamental parts for analysis.
Examples of Reductionism
- Reducing the behavior of women and men into biological expressions of genes and hormones.
- All of the definitions in this dictionary.
Types of Reductionism
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /riˈdəkʃəˌnɪz(ə)m/
- British English – /rᵻˈdʌkʃənɪz(ə)m/
- Plural: reductionisms
- Reductionism is defined here as a broad term, as there are numerous types.
- Reductionism originated in philosophy and the works of Francis Bacon (1561–1626) and René Descartes (1596–1650) among numerous others. However, the term has become a loaded one and is often used pejoratively or disparagingly.
- Reductionism is more common in the natural sciences than the social sciences.
- Most research methodologies require some reductionism in order to operationalize variables for study.
- Research methods are often viewed as holistic (qualitative) or reductionistic (quantitative).
- Reductionism is challenged by other theories such as complexity theory, postmodernism, and systems theory.
- Reductionism is the opposite of holism.
- Also called reductivism.
- A (noun) reductionist uses (adjective) reductionistic logic to (verb) reduce complex systems into smaller parts (adverb) reductionistically or (adverb) reductively.
- “Reductionism of any type tends to suggest that particular units of analysis or variables are more relevant than others. Suppose we ask what caused the American Revolution. Was it a shared commitment to the value of individual liberty? The economic plight of the colonies in relation to Britain? The megalomania of the founders? As soon as we inquire about the single cause, we run the risk of reductionism. If we were to regard shared values as the cause of the American Revolution, our unit of analysis would be the individual colonist. An economist, though, might choose the 13 colonies as units of analysis and examine the economic organizations and conditions of each. A psychologist might choose individual leaders as the units of analysis for purposes of examining their personalities” (Babbie 2011:109).
- Qualitative Research Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Quantitative Research Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “reductionism” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Brown, Terrance, and Leslie Smith, eds. 2002. Reductionism and the Development of Knowledge. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.
- Homans, George Caspar. 1961. Social Behaviour: Its Elementary Forms. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
- Jones, Richard H. 2000. Reductionism: Analysis and the Fullness of Reality. London: Associated University Presses.
- Kapferer, Bruce. 2005. The Retreat of the Social: The Rise and Rise of Reductionism. New York: Berghahn Books.
- Skinner, B. F. 1971. Beyond Freedom and Dignity. New York: Knopf.
- Reductionism – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: iep.utm.edu
Babbie, Earl R. 2011. The Basics of Social Research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Bilton, Tony, Kevin Bonnett, Pip Jones, David Skinner, Michelle Stanworth, and Andrew Webster. 1996. Introductory Sociology. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan.
Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).
O’Leary, Zina. 2007. The Social Science Jargon Buster: The Key Terms You Need to Know. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).
Stewart, Paul, and Johan Zaaiman, eds. 2015. Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction. Cape Town: Juta.
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “reductionism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved January 22, 2020 (https://sociologydictionary.org/reductionism/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
reductionism. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/reductionism/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “reductionism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed January 22, 2020. https://sociologydictionary.org/reductionism/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“reductionism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2020. <https://sociologydictionary.org/reductionism/>.